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CHEM 340: Organic Chemistry I (Dr. Atwater)

This guide is for students in CHEM 340 and provides essential tips for finding and citing chemistry resources. Also included are tips for writing lab reports.

Writing Lab Reports

When writing a Lab Report, remember to ...

  1. Use passive voice (not active)
  2. Use past tense (not imperative)
  3. Be detailed
  4. label your units (mL, g, °C, etc.)
  5. Use complete sentences

Writing Examples:

  Passive (CORRECT) Active (incorrect) Imperative (incorrect)
1. 200mL of distilled water were poured into a 500mL beaker. I poured 200mL of distilled water in a beaker. Pour 200mL water in a 500mL beaker.
2. The covered crucible was mounted on a ring stand. We put the crucible on a ring stand. Set the crucible on a ring stand.
3. The temperature was initially measured at 75°C. I measured the temperature at 75°C. Measure and write down the temperature.

A lab report tells the reader "This is what was done" AND "These were the results"


Passive voice keeps the researcher personally out of the experiment, keeps the content objective, and focuses the language on how the experiment was performed in a way that's repeatable by other researchers.

Passive voice means:

  • The subject of the sentence is acted upon (the action/verb is performed by someone/something else)
    • The subject of the sentence does NOT perform the action/verb
    • Whatever or whoever is performing the action is NOT the subject of the sentence

Formula for Passive Voice:

[form of "to be"] + past participle = passive voice

Comparing Passive to Active:

DO THIS  Subject Verb  
Passive                           The solution was heated to 60°C                                  
DON'T DO THIS Subject Verb  
Active We heated the solution to 60°C


In a scientific/lab report, you are describing what happened. Use past tense to describe (in detail) what you did during the experiment. (Do not use the imperative/commands).

Past Tense Means:

  • The verbs end with -ed

Comparing Past to Imperative:

DO THIS Subject Verb  
Past Tense (and Passive!)              The solution      was heated             to 60°C.        
DON'T DO THIS Verb Subject  
Imperative/Command Heat         the solution to 60°C.

Plagiarism basics

"All of the following are considered plagiarism:

  • turning in someone else's work as your own
  • copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
  • failing to put a quotation in quotation marks
  • giving incorrect information about the source of a quotation
  • changing words but copying the sentence structure of a source without giving credit
  • copying so many words or ideas from a source that it makes up the majority of your work, whether you give credit or not (see our section on "fair use" rules)

Most cases of plagiarism can be avoided, however, by citing sources. Simply acknowledging that certain material has been borrowed, and providing your audience with the information necessary to find that source, is usually enough to prevent plagiarism." 

Source:  What is plagiarism? (n.d.) Retrieved from <>

Review the FHSU policy on Academic Honesty.

This lesson on citations can help you avoid plagiarism. 

NLA Citations Lesson

Citations Tutorial Link

Citations are more than just a formality that protects against plagiarism. They allow individuals to participate in a scholarly conversation that is taking place among researchers in a specific field. In this lesson, students will explore types of citations and how citations can be used in academic writing.